Its been a long time since a turn-key, fiberglass, fair-dinkum bassin boat has been available on the Australian market. Around a decade ago, a couple of Ranger bass boats, imported from the USA hit our shores, but suffered from a lack of demand.
At the time, a 20hp motor was the average for a serious freshwater angler, and competitive freshwater fishing was limited to a handful of stand-alone events through the summer. Times have changed. Many anglers now specialize in tournament fishing and to these guys, the best boat performance is tantamount to taking the top tackle with you during a fishing session.
Australias tournament boats have generally evolved on a tangent to other countries. In South Africa, the USA, Canada and for top-line Japanese anglers, the fleet is nearly 100% fiberglass. The reverse is more common in Australia, with aluminium craft dominating the field.
Australia makes incredibly good aluminium fishing boats, and our manufacturers have been able to provide a deck layout to satisfy the most fastidious angler, however, as competitors demand more speed to maximize their fishing time, fibreglass composite hulls become an increasingly wise choice. The composite hulls handle higher horsepower well and with the correct deck design, these anglers can have their cake and eat it, too. Specialised bass boats are both fast, fishable and have an excellent finish that is durable.
The Australian market, however, has been too small to manufacture their own bullets, so the niche for an imported bass bullet has opened nicely. Concept Marines X-16 is an imported South African bass boat that has all of the advantages of American-style design and fishability coupled with the benefits of buying from South Africa, where the boats have been simplified by removing all the unnecessary accessories to create a clean and efficient fishing platform.
I took the opportunity to give Concept Marines first X-16 out of the container a run and the results were impressive. Alan Downes from Breakfast Creeks Downes Marine is a fast boat junkie and took the challenge of setting up this boat for optimum performance with Bombardiers re-engineered FICHT Ram 115hp outboard. Its made of a glass-like composite material with no internal timber framing, which means that theres nothing to rot in the long term.
At 16 feet, 115 is certainly a handful of horsepower, but the hull tames the motor to a point where most experienced boaties would enjoy the responsiveness and burst of speed from this rig. Two up with a full fishing kit on board, the boat pulls 65km/h at 4000 rpm through to 84km/h at a wide-open 6000rpm with the aid of a 20 Raker propeller and an optional fixed jacking plate, which moves the motor backwards and upwards from its original transom position.
Like most high-speed hulls, its best behaved in this 4000 to 6000 rpm range, where its aerodynamics seem to come into play as much as the parts of the hull that are touching the water. Try to cruise at lower speeds and the hull behaves like any other thoroughbred of its ilk.
So, with the exhilaration of getting there out of the way via an early morning zip down the Brisbane River, our test got down to the serious business of assessing the fishability of the X-16.
Sitting low in the water at rest and with an abundance of casting deck space both forard and aft, the X-16 offers a platform as fishable as any of the locally-made top-of-the-line rigs, but smart sub-deck design adds enough carpeted, waterproof storage space to easily take a tournament anglers tackle rods and all below ones feet.
A 7 and 9 rod locker can easily store a dozen, fully rigged rods, ready to fish, while four other underfloor compartments eat up PFDs, tackle boxes, safety gear and extra clothing. One of these is insulated and drains internally, making it an ideal ice box for day use or for extended camping trips.
Reach behind the lounge-style seats and youll find a partitioned, 75 litre livewell thats wired with a timer switch to keep your catch in top-class condition.
Aiding performance is a shift of weight to the rear of the boat, so there youll find a 70 litre aluminium fuel tank, a pair of 130 amp hour batteries to power the 24v/74lb MinnKota Maxxum and a 90 amp/h cranking battery. The balance of the under floor room is filled with foam, providing positive flotation, noise reduction and additional strength.
A neat and compact side console holds all necessary gauges, timers and electronics and youll find that the recessed cockpit keeps you close to the water, making a fast ride seem even faster. The test boat was fitted with a Humminbird NS25 GPS/sounder at the helm and a flush mounted Legend 2005 up front, with the puck transducer comfortably sitting on the armature of the electric motor.
Trailering hassles are minimized with a custom built, four-skid, drive-on trailer. Exemplifying the South Africans simplicity in design is a neat, three turnbuckle system for securing the boat to the trailer. No more busted webbing straps or jammed ratchets. The test boats trailer wasnt galvanized, but all retail models for Australias market will be.
If youre a tournament angler who is searching for the next level of speed and fishability, the X-16 is definitely worth a test drive. The test model was fully optioned, ready to tournament fish and has a price tag of $35,000. Call Mike Connolly of Concept Marine on 0414 556 105 for further information or visit the Concept Marine website at www.conceptmarine.com.au.